In Paspatur you can visit the historic hamam, and you can go to the hamam in mixed male and female groups, all clad in swimsuits. But forty years ago the hamam was a vital part of domestic life.
This writer lived in Bodrum in 1972 – 73 when women’s day at the local hamam was Tuesday, 9 – 5pm. The rest of the week the hamam was ‘men only’ so Tuesdays loomed large for a high number of village women who had other access to hot water in quantity.
My house did have a wood fired boiler which meant hot showers were possible in winter, but the shower room was a corner of the cavernous, unheated kitchen so the boiler was rarely lit. Instead I joined friends and neighbours in the Tuesday ritual of a visit to the hamam, bearing my dirty laundry.
In Irfan Orga’s book ‘The Turkish Family’ he writes an evocative description of a visit to the hamam by his very upper class mother early in the twentieth century. My hamam experience was totally the other end of the scale – a village hamam. Boys aged up to around 7 or 8 were allowed in on women’s day. There were babies, toddlers and women of all ages, shapes and sizes – all completely naked.
We would take a picnic lunch. One of the women was expert at scrubbing you with the kese to slough off the dead skin. By afternoon the tea glasses were circulating and we all had bags of clean, wet washing to take home – no plastic bags in those days either.
Women’s day at the hamam was also when we all caught up on the village gossip and, one thing our hamam had in common with the one described in Orfa’s book, young girls of marriageable age were keenly scrutinised by mothers seeking brides for their sons.
Perhaps hidden in deepest Anatolia such a village hamam still functions?